A Beginner's Guide to Website Design "Flow"
When it comes to website design and development, the structure created by designers varies greatly depending on the website’s purpose and the audience. However, there are some general observations regarding common approaches to website design and structure as they pertain to how it influences the consumer audience.
Below I will cover the best-practice principles of achieving a successful website design flow. Keep in mind there are always exceptions depending on the purpose of the website.
Website flow is a critical concept in governing website usability. Website flow describes how easy it is for users of a website to move between different content pages and how easy it is for users to find information as they navigate through the site.
The website flow is directly impacted by three website aspects that affect site navigation:
- Consistency – When a website presents a consistent user interface, it is easier for the user to navigate when viewing different pages and parts of the website. An example of consistency in website design is keeping the primary menu in the same spot of the screen on every page of the site.
- Simplicity – When a website provides limited options to its audience, the site is easier to navigate. For example, users desire two or three levels of a menu. This is because too many menus or dropdown menu options encourage visitors to skip important top-level pages.
- Context – Website context is described as the use of “signposts” to indicate where users are located within a website. To indicate the user’s location on a website, designers often utilize particular text or color to reassure users that they are not lost on your site. An example of context is a color-changing menu or a menu option that changes color when a user hovers their mouse over it. Site maps are also an excellent example of website context.
The need to be consistent in website design is one of the first things designers learn. Website consistency is an essential factor of website design for both visual elements and functionality. A consistent website design consists of a coherent website look that works harmoniously across all of its components. These elements include headers, footers, sidebars, and navigation bars.
Having consistent design across your website assists users in learning things about your website without even noticing it. A consistent design allows people to transfer past knowledge about your website to other pages they view on your site. Having consistent functions and symbols throughout a website enhances the usability and learnability of a site.
When a website is “simple,” it provides a seamless experience for users because they can easily navigate one piece of content to the next. The concept of simplicity when it comes to website design presents a refined, elegant, and desirable experience for users because we are overexposed to content in today’s digital age. The idea of psychological comfort is appealing to users today who spend more time interacting with their devices and online than ever before. A straightforward website that is intuitive and visually calming achieves the desired simplicity that keeps users coming back for more.
Website visitors primarily navigate through a website utilizing the primary menu. When a primary menu provides a dropdown menu, it encourages visitors to skip important top-level pages. This is just one reason that dropdown menus are considered annoying; they also tend to be difficult for search engines to crawl and create friction for users. At this point, users have already made a mental decision to hover over a menu item and click before the dropdown menu is presented.
Context is crucial when it comes to a successful website flow. Context is how users interact with your designs. Users need a sense of context of their place within a website. To do this, designers need to design a contextual layout that gives users explicit cues to the website’s context and organization. This is because users are only able to view a small segment of any website at one time on their screen.
Contextually designing a website requires designers to focus on many factors, including the device the users are accessing a website from. A consistent approach to a website layout includes titles, subtitles, page footers, and navigation links to the homepage or related pages; The inclusion of these functions reinforces the user’s sense of context.
In addition to the three main aspects covered above that affect the quality of navigation or website “flow,” many other factors are also important. These factors include download speed, alternative versions, auto-completion of forms, opportunities for interaction, navigation that creates choices, predictable navigation for control, and segmenting content by internet experience. Menu options, page design, content design, online copywriting, and scannability and skimmability, are other elements a web designer must factor into their website “flow” when designing their website.
It is evident that a compelling customer experience demands a consistent, simplistic, and contextual website design “flow.” Designing a website that is easy to use is dependent on the design of the website’s navigation scheme because it makes it easy for users to move between different pages of content and navigate effectively. Visual and functional consistency paired with a simple and seamless experience helps the user learn the site and contextually understand where they are located on the website. Combine this knowledge with good content and visuals, and you will have a website that provides a great user experience.
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